The Tweny-First Sunday after Pentecost

October 25, 2020

 

SERVICE OF THE WORD

This service offers the congregation a form of worship that focuses on the proclamation of God’s Word.  Believers respond to this divine gift with prayer, praise, and thanksgiving.  The service begins on page 38 in the front of the hymnal.

M:       We worship today in the name of our Triune God— God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

C:        Amen

Confession of Sins

M:       We have come into the presence of God, who created us to love and serve Him as His dear children.  But we have disobeyed Him and deserve only His wrath and punishment.  Therefore, let us confess our sins to Him and plead for His mercy.

C:        Merciful Father in heaven, I am altogether sinful from birth.  In countless ways I have sinned against you and do not deserve to be called your child.  But trusting in Jesus, my Savior, I pray:  Have mercy on me according to your unfailing love.  Cleanse me from my sin, and take away my guilt.

M:       God, our heavenly Father has forgiven all your sins.  By the perfect life and innocent death of our Lord Jesus Christ, He has removed your guilt forever.  You are His own dear child.  May God give you strength to live according to His will.

C:        Amen.

Prayer and Praise

M:       In the peace of forgiveness, let us praise the Lord.

C:        Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.  Blessed are they who take refuge in Him.  Your Word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.  Your faithfulness continues forever.  Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.  Blessed are they who take refuge in Him.

PRAYER OF THE DAY

M:       Let us pray.

Grant, O merciful Lord, to your faithful people pardon and peace that they may be cleansed from all their sins and serve you with a quiet mind;  we ask this through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C:     Amen

The Word

FIRST LESSON – Isaiah 25:6-9

The prophet pictures the joy and celebration that will be ours in heaven.

 On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine—the best of meats and the finest of wines.  On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever.  The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth.  The LORD has spoken.  In that day they will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us.  This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”  (NIV1984)

 PSALM OF THE DAY – Psalm 23

 The LORD is my shepherd,

I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures;

He leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul;

He leadeth me in paths of righteousness

for His name’s sake.

Yea though I walk through the valley

of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,

for thou art with me;

thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies,

thou anointest my head with oil;

my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever

Glory be to the Father and to the Son

                        and to the Holy Spirit,

            as it was in the beginning,

                        is now, and will be forever.  Amen

 

SECOND LESSON – Philippians 4:4-13 (Sermon Text)

The secret to joy and worry-free living is contentment in Jesus Christ.

 Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again:  Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you.  I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me.  Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.  I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength.  (NIV1984)

 VERSE OF THE DAY

Alleluia.  This is the Lord, we trusted in Him; let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.  Alleluia.  (Isaiah 25:9b)

 CAlleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  These words are written that we may believe that Jesus is

       the Christ, the Son of God.  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!

 GOSPEL LESSON – Matthew 22:1-14

God’s invitation to the heavenly feast of salvation will be ignored by many and received by few.

 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying:  “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.  He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.  Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner:  My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready.  Come to the wedding banquet.’  But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business.  The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them.  The king was enraged.  He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.  Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come.  Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’  So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.  But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes.  ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’  The man was speechless.  Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’  For many are invited, but few are chosen.”  (NIV1984)

 C:        Praise be to you, O Christ!

 SERMON  Rejoice in the Lord Always!

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

“When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Do those words sound familiar to you?  They are from our country’s Declaration of Independence.  The reason I shared these words with you here in God’s house today is because our Declaration of Independence states that we have “certain unalienable Rights”— one of which is:  “the pursuit of Happiness.”  Ever since Adam and Eve rebelled against their loving Creator and brought sin upon the entire human race, people have been engaged in “the pursuit of Happiness.”  Sadly, this “pursuit” has led human beings down some very dark roads and plunged people into deep depths of despair.  When you look back through the course of history and when you look around our world today, it’s not difficult to see some of the disastrous ways in which people have “pursued” happiness.  For millennia people have pursued happiness through sex and through drugs, through power and through fame.  In our day and age people have pursued happiness by embracing things such as gender fluidity and Internet notoriety and adding them to the list of things that they “pursue” in their quest for happiness.  And yet, every time someone pursues happiness apart from the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth the results are predictable.

Since even we can become entangled in the web of lies and illusions that Satan promotes in the pursuit of happiness, we need to be reminded of what God the Holy Spirit says to us through His servant Paul.  Since we all want  to experience happiness and joy and peace in our lives let’s study this text using the encouragement that Paul gave to the Philippian Christians so many years ago:  Rejoice in the Lord Always!  As we rejoice in the Lord we find that He does three things for us:  He takes away our anxieties and fears; He guides the choices we make in our life with the light of His Word; and, He gives us the strength we need as we journey through this world.

Rejoice in the Lord always— He takes away our anxiety and fears!  Look at how Paul highlights that truth in the opening portion of our text.  He writes, “Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again:  Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

One of the keys to understanding what the Holy Spirit is saying to us here is to remember that when the Holy Spirit has Paul write “in the Lord” He wants us to picture a “sphere.”  “In the sphere of the Lord” we can and we do “rejoice— always”!  The same truth is expressed in the words “in Christ Jesus.”  “In the sphere of Christ Jesus” the “peace of God will guard (our) hearts and (our) minds”!  Why is that picture so vitally important to remember?  Because it reminds us that through the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Means of Grace you are “in the sphere of the Lord”!  It reminds us that by virtue of your Christian baptism you  are “in the sphere of Christ Jesus”!

Since we are “in the sphere of the Lord” we can “rejoice always”!  Think about it, my friends.  We have the joy of knowing that through faith in what Jesus has done for us (Pointing to the cross) all of our sins have been completely forgiven.  We have the joy of knowing that our Shepherd will make us “lie down in green pastures,” lead us beside “quiet waters,” guide us in “paths of righteousness,” and take away our anxiety and fear — even when we “walk through the valley of the shadow of death.”  We have the joy of knowing that once the Lord has led us through the “valley of death” He will seat us at the “wedding banquet” that He so beautifully described for us in our Old Testament and Gospel readings for today.  (See Isaiah 25:6-9; Matthew 22:1-14)  These are joys that no one will ever be able to take away from us because by God grace we are “in the sphere of the Lord,” by God’s power we are “in the sphere of Christ Jesus”!

But what about all the negative things that we experience in this world?  What about the things that make us “anxious” or “fearful”— like pandemics!  What about the situations in life that make it a struggle for us to “rejoice in the Lord”?  Paul addresses that reality by saying to us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Because we are “in the sphere of Christ Jesus” we can take anything that makes us “anxious;” anything that causes us to “worry;” anything that brings fear into our hearts, place them at the nail-scarred feet of Christ Jesus our Lord and say, “Dearest Lord, I need you to fulfill your promise to make all things work together for my good. (See Romans 8:28)  You are the only one One who can take care of these things.  Please, if it be your will, take this away from me.  And if in your eternal wisdom it is your will to say to me what you said to your servant Paul, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12:9), then I ask you to grant me your peace.”  Yes, my friends, the privilege of taking everything to the Lord in prayer coupled together with the confidence of knowing that nothing is too big for our God to take care of and nothing is too small for our God to be concerned about, well, that is a wonderful reason to rejoice in the Lord always!  In His love and by His power Jesus (Pointing to the cross) takes away our anxieties and fears!

When we look at the middle portion of our text we see that the apostle Paul encourages us to rejoice in the Lord always because through the light of His holy Word He guides the choices that we make as His dearly beloved children.  Paul writes, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable— if anything is excellent or praiseworthy— think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me— put into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you.”

If we were to focus our eyes and our ears solely on what we see and hear in the world around us we could easily find ourselves overwhelmed by storms of doom and gloom.  Between the partisan bickering that is taking place in Washington and the political ads that we see on television, between the “second wave” of the coronavirus all across the world and the deep economic crises that many people are facing right here in our own country we could easily feel dazed and confused and perhaps even a little shell-shocked!

That’s when and that’s why we need the Lord to guide us!  How does the God of Heaven guide us, His children, here on this earth?  He guides us through His holy Word!  When Paul encourages us to “think about” — or that word could be translated as, “to reckon, to take into account, to consider whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy”— He is not suggesting that we practice some kind of “positive thinking” technique or some “self-help” therapy.  The world’s understanding of what is “true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy” is not only changing on a regular basis but it is often the polar opposite of how God defines each of those words.  If we try to “think about” these things from a worldly perspective we’ll not only end up with a headache, but we’ll also end up with a heartache as the choices that we make in our life lead us farther and farther away from Him!  (Pointing to the cross)  When we “consider” these things from the perspective of what God tells us here in His holy Word then we will be able to rejoice in the Lord always as He uses the light of His Word to guide the choices that we make as His children.

Finally, let’s look at the last two verses of our text.  Here the apostle Paul encourages us to rejoice in the Lord always because He is the One who gives us strength!  Paul writes, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

In many ways Paul’s life was very similar to ours.  There were times when the Lord blessed Paul with “plenty” of everything he needed— friends and food, rest and support.  Then the were the times when— from an earthly perspective— Paul was “in want.”  Paul was deeply thankful, however, that he had “learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.”  What was Paul’s “secret”?  Paul had learned that “contentment” does not come from how many or how few earthly blessings you have.  “Contentment” comes from Christ!  “I can do everything through him (Pointing to the cross) who gives me strength.”  Whatever Paul faced in his life, whatever Paul was called upon to do or to endure Paul was confident that God would give him the strength he needed to face those challenges because Paul was confident that he was “in the sphere of Christ.”  Christ’s grace was sufficient for him.  Christ’s power rested upon him.  Christ Himself had promised to be with Paul— “even to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).  Whatever the Lord Jesus Christ gave to him, whatever the Lord Jesus Christ withheld from him, Paul was content because he knew!  He knew that by God’s grace and by God’s power God would give Paul the strength that he needed as he journeyed through this world.

Have we “learned the secret of being content in any and every situation”?  Some of us will have to admit that this has been a process, hasn’t it.  When we are young and confident about our own abilities, when we look around and see all the things that other people have, when our faith is “young” or when we have allowed our faith to become “weak” by not feeding it on a regular basis with the spiritual food of God’s holy Word and God’s holy Sacrament, then we might struggle to say that we have “learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.”  But as we grow older and realize how much we can’t do and how much we can’t control, as our faith matures and we realize how much we need Jesus and how faithfully Jesus fulfills the promises He has made to us— then we rejoice in the Lord as He daily helps us to learn the “secret of being content in any and every situation.”  Then we rejoice in the Lord as He daily gives us the strength that we need as we journey through this world!

Unlike the “pursuit of happiness” which has been so elusive for so many people for so long, the joy and the peace and the happiness that we have “in the sphere of the Lord Jesus Christ” is not something that we have to “pursue”!  It is already ours!  It was given to us when we were baptized int the Name of the Triune God!  May the good Lord grant that the joy and the peace and the happiness which we have been given “in the sphere of” our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will always assure us that He (Pointing to the cross) takes away our anxiety and fear; He guides the choices that we make with the light of His holy Word; and, He gives us the strength we need as we journey through this world.

To God be the glory!

Amen

APOSTLES’ CREED

I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.  He descended into hell.  The third day He rose again from the dead.  He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.  From there He will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.

 OFFERING

During this time of uncertainty we still want to bring our thank offerings to our dear Lord and Savior.  We ask that you continue to set your offerings aside so that when we are able to come together again in God’s House we will be able to place our offerings on His altar.

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH

O risen Lord and Savior, we are deeply troubled because of our sins.  They are beyond number and grievous, filling our consciences with fear and our souls with dread.  Because of our sins we deserve nothing but God’s wrath. And yet we joyfully lift up our hearts in prayer, for we have you as our kind and merciful Savior, our heavenly Friend who freely gave His life on the cross to completely pay for all of our sins.

We also praise you, O Lord, because we have the joy of knowing that you rose from the dead according to the Scriptures, and as our ever-living Lord you give us many rich blessings.  We rejoice that through the power of your Holy Spirit you have called us to faith, clothing us with garments of salvation and arraying us in a robe of perfect righteousness.  We rejoice that you now live in us through the Holy Spirit, empowering us to do good works to your glory.  We rejoice that our prayers are both heard and answered at God’s throne, where you intercede in our behalf.  We rejoice that you are preparing a place for us at your magnificent heavenly feast, and that one day you will come to raise the dead and take us to yourself.  This joy buoys our spirits, robs death of its sting, and helps us bear with patience the troubles that so often beset us.  And when loneliness could easily turn into despair we are reminded to rejoice instead, for we have your promise to be with us even to the end of the age.  All these blessings and so many more fill us with the joy of salvation!

C:        Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever.  Amen.

M:       O Lord God, our heavenly Father, pour out the Holy Spirit on your faithful people.  Keep us strong in your grace and truth, protect and comfort us in all temptation, and bestow on us your saving peace, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C:        Amen.

M:       Brothers and sisters, go in peace.  Live in harmony with one another.  Serve the Lord with gladness.

The Lord bless you and keep you.  The Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you.  The Lord look on you with favor and give you peace.

C:        Amen.